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Agroecology to fight food poverty in Madrid’s deprived neighbourhoods

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The agroecological movement is gaining presence in urban spaces, transcending the rural areas where it originated and revealing the need for an alliance between both worlds. As the social justice dimension is at the core of agroecology, one would expect that designing urban food systems with an agroecological approach would prioritize deprived neighbourhoods. However, this is not happening. To overcome it and address food poverty, we explore spatial design principles inspired by agroecology, to transform production and consumption along the urban-rural transect. We developed a methodology and applied it to a vulnerable neighbourhood (Bellas Vistas in Madrid, Spain), to outline a network of productive spaces and collective facilities for an agroecological transition that overcomes the middle-class bias commonly observed in Alternative Food Networks. It defines mechanisms to connect local needs with available resources, considering self-supporting communities, empty plots and underused spaces and buildings, as well as institutional policies and plans. This way, the traditional assistance approach can be replaced by a structural solution that disrupts dominant relationships bringing food sovereignty a step closer.

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Source INE database 2013

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Source elaborated by the author

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Source elaborated by the author

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  1. The Milan Urban Policy Pact is an international protocol signed by cities committed to develop sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, that minimize waste and conserve biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change.

  2. See AESOP- Sustainable Food Planning.

  3. See Toledo Informal Ministerial Meeting on Urban Development Declaration 2010.

  4. Madrid's Food Strategy was adopted, 1st March 2018.

  5. The 15-M movement started in 2011, with demonstrations an protests claiming for radical changes in Spanish politics.

  6. In the case of Madrid: Planes Integrales de Barrio (Integral Neighbourhood Plans) y Fondos de Reequilibrio Territorial (Funds to Restore Territorial Balance).

  7. The model is already successfully implemented in other countries like France or Belgium in the form of Ateliers Collectifs de Transformation (Agence pour l’Entreprise et l’Innovation de Wallonie, 2015).

  8. Battersby refers specifically to Sub-saharan cities.


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The authors offer their thanks to the Ministry of Housing (Eduardo de Santiago) that provided the statistical data on vulnerable neighbourhoods. This research has been developed in the GIAU+S (UPM) within the framework of the project DIVERCROP, funded through the ARIMNet2 2016 Call by the following funding agencies: ANR (France)], IRESA (Tunisia), INIA (Spain), FCT (Portugal), ATRSNV (Algeria), MIPAAF (Italia) and MCST (Malta). ARIMNet2 (ERA-NET) has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No 618127”.

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Correspondence to Marian Simon-Rojo.

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Simon-Rojo, M. Agroecology to fight food poverty in Madrid’s deprived neighbourhoods. Urban Des Int 24, 94–107 (2019).

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